Center of Excellence in
Apoptosis Research

Apoptosis: Up Close and Personal

The body has a built-in system to get rid of old, damaged, or unnecessary cells. Called apoptosis, this "programmed cell death" is critical to good health. If the system stops working, abnormal cells accumulate, which can cause diseases such as cancer. If the system works too well, an abundance of healthy cells are destroyed, causing severe tissue damage that can lead to Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders.

To support research into this critical system-and what happens when it malfunctions-PVLSI launched the Center of Excellence in Apoptosis Research (CEAR) in 2006 with support from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative's John Adams Innovation Institute and the University of Massachusetts Science & Technology Initiatives Fund, as well as the Institute's founding partners. As part of PVLSI, the center draws on the extensive experience of our diverse science faculty to address a number of important health concerns.

Since its creation, the center's scientists have generated new information on how certain proteins regulate apoptosis in cancer cells, developed new molecules designed to carry anticancer drugs directly to diseased cells, and created a large collection of normal breast tissue samples to study the effect of risk factors such as age, body mass index, and parity on gene expression and epigenetic changes. Other topics under study range from manipulating apoptosis to the body's advantage to the development of specialized screens to identify proteins thought to be involved in apoptosis.

In addition to serving as a home for the apoptosis research community, CEAR also supports apoptosis-related research and the training of future scientists through several innovative grant programs.

Scientists, engineers, and clinicians from PVLSI, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the Baystate Medical Center whose work is related to apoptosis are welcome to become involved in CEAR's activities. For more information, please contact CEAR Director Sallie Smith Schneider, PhD, at 413.794.0941 or by e-mail at If your company is interested in the group's work, please contact Marcia Dougan Woods at 413.794.0757 or by e-mail at